Life with Littles · Motherhood · Soup · Vegan · What's for Dinner?

No Mistakes In It, and Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” – Philippians 3:13

Dear Joey,

After weeks on end of so much gray, color finally started to come back. The snow has melted; temperatures are cold but not freezing, and flashes of green wink at me from in between the brown blades of old grass, like Addie flashing me a smile and calling me to come out to play for awhile.

Today I joined her: we rode bikes and drew with sidewalk chalk and drank in the sun even as a cold breeze reminded us it isn’t quite springtime yet.  For a moment I was a little girl again, wind tickling my cheeks while I plucked a handful of sour grass and pretended to be Anne Shirley making a flower crown for Princess Cordelia, her imaginary persona that embodied everything Anne wished she herself was: beautiful, important, and loved.

IMG_0456

Anne Shirley didn’t have the luxury of parents to invest in her tender heart. Addie does, but I catch myself wondering if she doubts she is the remarkable girl we know her to be. She asks us all the time: am I beautiful? Important? Loved? She asks it in her own way, of course, and we do our best to answer her in a way she understands. Still, I wonder how much of it is sinking in.

Anne Shirley is the sort of person I wished I was: brave, unabashedly imaginative, and loyal all at once, and in my growing up years I looked up to Anne Shirley as the embodiment of so many things I hoped to become. Of course, she was an awkward, orphaned little girl who feels the sting of injustice at a very early age, but the painful past that marks her as different turns her into I wanted to be: self-confident and outspoken and brave. She stirs the pot and soils her already unpopular name by getting herself into many troublesome situations, and goodness does she have a temper–especially when Gilbert Blythe calls her Carrots. Yikes. But beneath all that trouble is a tender, upright heart.

IMG_0597

I was more like Diana Barry, though: Anne’s soft spoken, sensible, rule-following best friend whose life is governed by the rules of propriety. I wanted to be more like adventurous Anne, but alas, I was far more like demure Diana who craves adventure while comfortably wrapped up in the warm confines of convention. Anne is courageous; Diana is scrupulous. No wonder the two became such great friends: bravery without good sense can easily turn reckless, and what good is wisdom without action?  Courage and scruples go hand in hand.

Addie is like Diana too: she errs on the side of too safe, just like I did, and it bothers both of us. It bothers her because she misses out on so much of life and it bothers me because it hurts her. She quietly confesses this in the shadows of her darkened room as she snuggles into the safety of her bed. “I don’t know why it’s so hard for me,” she admits, talking about how difficult it is to be brave. I tell her this: it’s not brave if you’re not scared, which means that she really is brave, in the truest sense. And I let her in on the secret that even people for whom bravery seems easy struggle with stuff too, that trying our best is what counts, and making mistakes in the process is how we learn best. I also tell her all about how Anne Shirley, the brave little girl in one of my favorite books who famously asks, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” I tell her it’s a question that acknowledges mistakes happen, and also infuses hope into the days to come. I tell her that it reminds me of a verse in Philippians where the brave apostle Paul talks forgetting what has happened in the past and pressing on toward what’s next. We talk about breaking free of the prison mistakes put us in and moving on from them unencumbered.

IMG_0602

It is heavy stuff for an 8 year old; heavy stuff for me too. Being able to move on from mistakes is a life skill that I have not mastered yet, but I’m working on it. As it turns out I may have spent childhood being more like Diana, but in adulthood I am finding I am more like Anne than I thought: short-tempered, easily frustrated, overly dramatic. It is the Diana in Addie that makes me see it: she is soft-spoken, uncertain, a little afraid to draw unwanted attention to herself, and it pushes all my buttons, making me a little bit crazy. I find myself losing my temper with Addie because I see the young, insecure girl I used to be staring back at me with soft green eyes, and instead of being patient with her, I get frustrated that she has to sift through the same internal turmoil that I did.

A flared up temper is a flame that spreads fast, and before we know it, I find myself stubbornly fighting with her instead of fighting for her. Tears fall and doors close. In the silence, I remember Addie is tenderly trying to figure out whether what we say is true: that she is beautiful, important, and loved, and my temper is teaching all the wrong things. Admitting I failed this time around, seeking forgiveness, and leaving the mistake behind me does not come naturally to me. I am more apt to wrap the mistakes around my wrist like a bracelets, and their clanging reminds me of all the times I failed to be the person I really want to be, or to invest in the person I really want Addie to become. I am tempted to worry about what comes next and have to remind myself that Jesus said, “[…] don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). So I pry off those bracelets and fling them behind me, choosing to throw worry away and focus all my energy toward what comes next. I accept the gift of grace and remind myself to extend that gift to Addie, too. She has so many tomorrows left, and I don’t want her to start any one of them thinking there’s a mistake waiting to greet her there.

IMG_9938

I soften as the sun sets. Addie does too. And we whisper apologies along with our hopes for the day waiting on the other side of slumber, thankful that it waits there unsullied by our poor choices and harsh words. We learn together that admitting we were wrong and choosing to try again takes guts and integrity, and the two together are a powerful combination. We agree to leave the wrongs behind us and move toward the promise of a fresh day with courage and scruples, both, and we are better for it.

As it turns out, we are both a little bit more like Anne than perhaps we thought. My girl and I, we have Diana’s good sense, it’s true. But we also have Anne’s gumption. Mistakes will happen, but why worry about them today? And Addie certainly has Anne’s imagination, and I know one day I will look up out of my writing window and see her lazing away a sunny afternoon peering up at the sky, writing stories in her mind about each cloud as they quietly drift by.

Love,

Scratch

Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup

IMG_0394

Joey is a sucker for all things ginger, and has a particular weak spot for carrot-ginger soup. (If it’s on the menu, he will order it.) As it turns out, Addie has a soft spot for this soup too: her face lit up at the first spoonful, and she smiled as if she had just scooped up sunshine. Addie and I have had our difficult moments lately, but this soup reminds me a new season full of fresh starts waiting there for us. Plus, it’s an easy, colorful way to infuse a little color into the dreary dinner hours of winter, when spring seems like an impossible dream. 

Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 ounce peeled/diced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • a few glugs of olive oil, canola oil, or refined coconut oil
  • salt and pepper
Method:

First, set the oven to 425 degrees. Next, spread the carrots onto a sheet pan, drizzle them with a few glugs of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pop them into the hot oven. Roast them for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender and golden.

Meanwhile, set a large sauce pan over medium heat. Saute the onions in about 2 tablespoons of oil (olive, canola or coconut oil will do); cook them until soft but not browned. Add the ginger, sea salt, and broth. Simmer until the ginger is soft. Add the roasted carrots to the pot. Using an immersion blender, puree until the soup is smooth. (Or, if you don’t have an immersion blender, pour the broth/onion/ginger mixture into a high speed blender, add the roasted carrots, and puree until smooth.)

 

Cultivating Kindness · Dairy Free · Family Life · Grain Free

Snow Again, Kindness Always,and Double Chocolate Banana Bread

“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”

-1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NIRV)

Dear Joey,

The Goobie girls had another Snow Day this week.

They went from cheering for them and luxuriating in the low pressure days at home to groaning at the mere possibility of them. They tire of each other quickly when we are all cooped up inside, stepping on each others’ toes for days on end. They love each other, of course, and they even get along beautifully most of the time, going out of their way to be thoughtful and considerate of each other’s feelings. Lately though–yikes. I wish the snow would melt away so I could send them outside for some much needed space.

IMG_0389

Snow days and so much togetherness has given us lots of opportunity to train them on other important life skills, things we harp on all the time but tend to ignore because of lack of time, things like loading the dishwasher after dinner and putting dirty clothes in the hamper every time, things we tell them about extensively, things they know they should do, and things they get very lazy about. Snow days gave us the perfect opportunity to examine the difference between knowing and doing, and how effort bridges the gap between them. Turns out, with so many days at home, dirty laundry left on the floor is the least of my worries: the way they treat each other stinks. Specifically, Addie knows how to use kind words to communicate her need for personal space; Mia knows how to leave Addie alone when she has had her fill of company. (And while we’re circling the point, Emery knows how to push his sisters buttons and nudge them toward hysteria, no matter what the situation.)

IMG_0364

Knowing how to use kind words matters little until they make an effort to actually use them. Addie knows how to speak kindly in tense situations, but she rarely does. Mia knows how to leave Addie alone, but she gets in Addie’s face, pleading with her sister to play with her, anger escalating as she does so. They ignore what they know they should do and end up snapping at each other, hurling harsh words and bad feelings over small injuries when they could have put in a little effort to maintain peace. Being stuck inside makes it worse. After last Friday’s snow we braced ourselves for another weekend spend largely inside refereeing the three of them, but we woke up to find a blue sky smiling, like an excited neighborhood friend calling us outside to play after a long, hard illness.

IMG_0456

We seized the chance to get outside while we could, so we piled the Goobies into the truck in hopes of airing out the attitudes. In search of adventure, we ended up taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride at a local historical farm and poked around the grounds for a bit, stomping through the snow and dragging our heels at the idea of heading back into the confines of home and the chores that waited for us there. Miraculously, they got along beautifully. (Fresh air and sunshine are miraculous.)

IMG_0383

When we finally pulled back into the court, we noticed our driveway was cleared of the previous night’s snow, and we knew instinctively what happened: our neighbor cleared it for us. He was out with his snowblower clearing his own driveway when we pulled out of the court that morning; the lines criss-crossing our own driveway (the kind I now can easily recognize as left by a snowblower and not a shovel) told us right away he cleared our driveway too. We were surprised that anyone would spend extra time out in the cold doing such a loathsome job on a rare beautiful Saturday morning. Whether our driveway is clear or not makes no difference to him, really, but he sacrificed his time and comfort to clear it for us anyway.

IMG_0367

It was a kindness we couldn’t ignore. “We ought to bake something and take it over there later,” you said as we lifted the Goobies out of the truck. I agreed. It was the right thing to do, and what a perfect opportunity to show the Goobies what being kind looks like in a practical sense. No, we are not feuding with our neighbor, but I imagine the folks next door are just as tired of winter as we are, so clearing one more driveway was a sacrificial gesture of goodwill indeed. We could not ignore it, so we trooped inside and clicked on the oven and lined up the ingredients for our favorite double chocolate loaf. After it cooled and the afternoon faded into evening, you pulled on your boots and walked back out into the cold and delivered our thanks along with a freshly baked treat.

IMG_0369

The Goobies were not on board with this decision. They were pretty peeved the driveway was cleared at all because it foiled their plan to go sledding down the driveway later that afternoon. Parting with their favorite double chocolate banana bread made the whole thing worse. Tears ensued, of course. And complaining. And bad attitudes. I knew that would happen because they are nutty about that chocolatey treat. You got ready to tromp through the snow to deliver it to the neighbors anyway, and I am sure the our children wondered how something that felt unpleasant to them could be a kindness at all.

IMG_0370

We want our kids to know how to be kind, but we also want them to practice doing kind things. It is tough for them to actually do what they know they should do (it is hard for us too) because being kind often requires sacrifice. Kids are not born with a natural inclination toward giving up something they really want for themselves (time alone; the sharpest pencil in the cup; the biggest slice of pizza; the top bunk), but they learn to do these things over time–particularly when we help them (force them?) to practice. Giving in to the Goobies’ protests would have been easier than walking it over to the neighbors on a cold winter evening, but we want our children to grow up to be the sort of people who would haul their snow blower next door to clear the driveway for a neighbor without giving it a second thought, people who will gracefully accept kindness from other folks and respond with gratitude and reciprocate the gesture. We want them treat all people with kindness, always.

IMG_0434

And so, I wrapped that still-warm chocolatey loaf in wax paper, tied it up with string, and slipped a simple note of thanks on top. The Goobies begged me to make a second loaf that day. I refused, but I did promise to make it again in the coming week. More snow was in the forecast anyway and I knew we would need the oven on again soon enough. Four days later, another round of snow made its way to our doorstep, giving those girls another snow day (and another chance to practice being kind to each other), and an opportunity to make good on my promise. The loaf is not gone yet, but it will not stick around forever (neither will the snow, so I hear), but kindness has staying power. I hope the Goobies choose it always.

Love,

Scratch

Grain Free, Dairy Free Double Chocolate Banana Bread (GF/DF)

IMG_0372

It’s no secret my kids love banana bread. This version, though, is different: they actually go a little nutty for it. I can’t blame them. “Banana bread” is almost a misnomer for this loaf because it’s so moist and tender it fools me into thinking I’m eating cake (and really, perhaps that’s a better name for it, but “banana bread” makes  me feel a little less guilty for giving it to them for a snack). While it is based on my more classic gluten free version of banana bread, a few simple swaps make it grain free. In fact, our family actually prefers banana bread made with almond + tapioca starch + coconut flour these days, so I rarely make it with gluten free flour anymore. Do not let the idea of using “substitute” flours make you cringe. I promise this loaf is delicious and distinctly not weird. (How do I know? My picky-about-everything-won’t-eat-anything-remotely-unpalatable six year old pouts when we run out of this stuff.) If this loaf doesn’t convince you that grain free foods can be just as decadent–or perhaps even more decadent–than their grain-based counterparts? Well, I guess you are set in your ways and nothing could convince you. If you don’t like bananas, or are allergic to them, try using pumpkin puree instead (but increase the brown sugar to 3/4 cup and give the batter a taste before baking. If it doesn’t seem sweet enough, adjust accordingly).


Ingredients:

3 large ripe bananas (about 1 1/2 cups of mashed bananas)

1/2 cup oil (melted and cooled refined coconut oil, canola, or even “vegetable” oil (whatever that is)–as long as it’s neutral tasting, it will do the trick)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark–both work well)

1 large egg (or add another 1/4 cup of mashed banana to make an egg-free version)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon vinegar (apple cider or white)

1 cup blanched almond flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons tapioca starch

2 Tablespoons coconut flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup chocolate chips (We use Enjoy Life brand)

crystal sprinkles or pure cane sugar, for topping

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a regular loaf pan with nonstick spray (coconut oil spray works great!).

First, let’s talk about the dry ingredients. Scoop and level off the almond flour, tapioca flour and coconut flour and cocoa powder just as you would all-purpose flour. Aerate the flours by stirring them with a spoon before scooping, then scoop and level off just as you would all-purpose flour. This will help prevent the loaf from getting too dense from inadvertently adding too much flour to the batter.) Measure the flours into a medium mixing bowl, followed by the baking soda and salt. Whisk them all together, then set the bowl aside.

Next: bananas: remember, the more little brown spots they have, the sweeter the batter will be. Using a stand mixer, mash the bananas well. Once they are mostly smooth, add the oil and mix on medium high until the bananas and oil have emulsified (smooth and well combined). Then add the egg, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk well for a minute or two, until the mixture is velvety and smooth.

Move on to the dry ingredients: scoop them into the batter gradually, whisking between additions. Scoop and whisk, scoop and whisk, scoop and whisk. With every addition, stir until the flour mixture is moistened. Once all the dry ingredients are added, turn the mixer on high and give it a whirl. 30 seconds or so at this speed should do the trick. Finally, gently stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan. To make it really sparkle, sprinkle the top with crystal sprinkles or pure cane sugar.

Pop the pan into the preheated oven and bake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the pan sit for about 3 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack. Let the loaf cool almost all the way before slicing (if you can wait that long).

Allergy Friendly · Celebrations · desserts · Winter

The Colors of Winter, and Fresh Fruit Torte

Dear Joey,

The view from my writing window is gray this morning. Even what little snow is left outside looks greasy and gray these days: the sad remains of snow flurries that were cause for celebration a couple weeks ago.

img_0024

I don’t hate the view. Or at least, up until today I haven’t, and I think perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I used to dream about snowy winter weather during the temperate, lavish green ones I took for granted back home in California. The hills are emerald green by now, I imagine, and beanies are more of a fashionable reminder of wintertime, rather than a necessary defense against bitter winds. Bags brimming with oranges and lemons and grapefruits used to show up on our doorstep back home, all gleaned from my Grandparents’ stalwart old trees. Can you imagine the miracle of finding a bag of citrus on our doorstep today? I clearly see Grandma taking a break from all the fruit picking and cradling an afternoon cup of tea in her hands. Its steam swirls in the cool of a January afternoon, and she laughs as we share a short visit. I want to be there with her right now: capturing her laugh in a locket and catching the sweet smell of the backyard blossoms in a bottle, and I want to tuck them into my chest so I can always remember her that way. And I really want that bag of oranges she inevitably sent home with me.

img_0054

Even so, the mild winters of my youth pale in comparison to the beauty of a quiet winter snow. Flakes bigger than a postage stamp (and sometimes as big as my fist) quietly floated down from a white sky, as if all our Midwestern great grandmothers huddled together over our house and scattered fistfuls of doilies over us as a sort of blessing, welcoming us to the landscape upon which they lived their lives. The flakes accumulated for hours, and when they finally finished, the world outside glistened, just like all those Christmas carols say they do. The trees out front looked like scraggly fingers slipped beneath pure white gloves embroidered with pearls and diamonds, hands held out low as if ready to receive a kiss. The landscape was the purest white; the clouds seemed to wrap us in a hug, and the fire blazed in the hearth every night. It wasn’t Christmas, but it sure was cozy.

img_0050

That snow eventually melted though, and as it did so I found myself surrounded by a landscape painted in an array of neutrals that I love–gray skies that reminded me of a well-loved sweater; white snow as feather light as freshly whipped butter; grass turned taupe like toasted oatmeal–warm and welcoming; and gray-black tree branches the very same color as faded ink that fill the pages of the oldest books I own–and they tricked me into thinking winter was an old friend. Today, those same colors that seemed comforting and familiar at first are  now so faded they don’t seem like colors at all any more. Cadaverous trees reach out of the pallid landscape, like a corpse stretching its bony gray fingers up out of the grave. Beyond them, the ashen horizon fades into a tired blue sky that reminds me faded blue jeans, rumpled and cast away. Even cheerless colors die a slow death in winter here.

img_0197

To compensate, my imagination is conjuring up all sorts of colorful glory that keeps me company in these dark days. I catch myself daydreaming about the brightest colors I can imagine, colors like marigold and daffodil, pineapple and emerald; sea foam and cerulean. I want fill the shelves above the hearth with pots of sunflowers and chrysanthemums and daffodils, and I want a happy vase of pink gerbera daisies to smile at me from the kitchen table again. I want to make lemon herb chicken and grilled vegetables; steak kebabs and garden salads and strawberry shortcake. I want bring sunshine into a spaces that haven’t seen it in weeks.

img_0101

The bright spot of January? Your birthday. Did you notice I didn’t bother asking what kind of birthday cake you wanted this year? I knew what your answer would be (“White cake with white frosting, please!”), but I just couldn’t bear to celebrate with something so devoid of color. Instead, I made a tender yellow sponge cake with luscious custard filling and topped it all with the most resplendent fruits I could find. True: it was inspired by that fruit torte we nearly forgot to serve ten years ago on your birthday (after the shock of having you propose to me in the middle of your birthday party, can you blame me for forgetting to serve cake?), but admittedly I just couldn’t pass up my chance to bring a little color into the house. It was a lovely, delicious break from the hum-drum colors of winter (even though I pictured the truck that carried the fruit coughing gray exhaust as it made its way across the winter wasteland. Sigh. The gray is everywhere.)

img_0103

I know it won’t last; as these bitter days stretch on in what feels like an eternal curse of cold, I am learning to hope again, to anticipate watching the miracle of life after death unfold before my eyes in a much more obvious way. The impossible truth that life will come again is astounding to my heart, because everything appears too far gone to ever return. I know this isn’t true. I know generation upon generation before me has watched this miracle unfold, but it feels like I am living what I had only learned before. I watch for signs of life every day, learning again what expectant hope feels like. We saw a rabbit skittering through the fence a few days ago. Yesterday I saw a small bird flitting through the trees. The sun pokes holes in the clouds every so often, and it feels glorious and warm as it filters through the living room windows late in the afternoon, and if we’re lucky, we see rainbows dance against the wall, celebrating.  When the clouds part, and the blue sky seems dull at the horizon, but when I lift my eyes above the desolate land and focus my eyes toward the heavens, the sky screams blue like a dazzling aquamarine. And I dreamed about the most beautiful garden last night, lush and green as velvet with a sea of cheerful yellow chrysanthemums dotted with deep blue ones, and it felt like a promise of so much more to come.

Love,

Scratch

Fruit Torte

img_0100

Ten years ago Joey planned the ultimate surprise proposal when he popped the question on his own birthday. We were so swept up in the romance of it all that we almost forgot to sing happy birthday or serve cake. Marking the anniversary of our engagement with a version our whole family could enjoy felt right, especially since it brought so much color into the middle of a frigid, lackluster landscape. Clearly, this dessert would be amazing served in summertime, when the strawberries are sweeter than candy. But in the dead of winter, the honey glaze helps sweeten them up. I used Nicole from Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s delicious recipe for spongecake as a base (and didn’t alter it, because why fuss when something is so perfect?), so follow the link below to find her recipe. This torte is gluten free, dairy free, and nut free–and delicious enough for my seven year old niece to ask for two slices.

For the Sponge Cake:

Get Nicole’s recipe here.

For the Custard Cream:
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1-15 oz can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup So Delicious Coco Whip
For the Fresh Fruit Topping
  • 2 kiwis, peeled & sliced
  • 1 pint strawberries (or more, if you prefer), washed and sliced to about 1/4″ thick
  • canned mandarin oranges (6-8 segments or so)
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Next, start by preparing the sponge cake. Follow Nicole’s recipe (which you can find here), but bake the batter in a 10″ greased spring form pan for about 20 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and is golden on top.

Next, make the custard cream. Start by  mixing the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Next, whisk the egg yolks into the sugar/starch mixture until it loosens up and turns a beautiful buttery yellow.

Then, heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan over high heat, until it bubbles around the rim. Remove the pan from the heat and temper the egg mixture: scoop about a 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk; scoop another 1/4 cup of hot milk into the mixture and whisk again; scoop one more 1/4 cup of hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk again. Then, pour the tempered egg mixture into the pan with the hot coconut milk and whisk to combine. Set the pan over medium heat and cook, whisking as you go. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for one minute, then remove from the heat again. Add the vanilla, whisk well, and pour the custard into a glass bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap (carefully place it directly onto the custard so a film does not form) and refrigerate until cool (this takes a few hours).

When the custard has cooled, fold 1 cup So Delicious Coco Whip (which is basically a vegan version of Cool Whip).

Once the cake has cooled and the custard cream is ready, spread the custard cream on top of the sponge cake (you can choose whether to remove the sides of the spring form pan yet or not). Top with sliced fruit, then brush a little honey on top to make the cake thing shine.

 

Baking · Breakfast · Dairy Free · Grain Free

A Quiet Morning, and Grain Free Pumpkin Muffins

Dear Joey,

You were on call this morning, so you were at the hospital before the sun woke up. And I’m so sorry you missed it: a miraculous combination of cooperation and quiet that yielded me a chance to try out a new recipe. After stumbling downstairs with three hungry Goobies in tow; after digging through the freezer to find something other than cereal and bananas to feed their empty bellies; after settling on a combination of sliced strawberries, frozen waffles and hash browns (and letting them each choose whatever they wanted), they were full and happy and ventured off on their own to unleash their creativity before the sun was all the way up. There wasn’t any squabbling or pestering, either–just the happy sounds of happy kids. In the quiet, I was faced with a dilemma: sit and drink my coffee in peace, or take the opportunity to make a batch of muffins?

I chose muffins, of course.

Muffins

While I was stuck on the couch nursing a silly shoulder problem the past few days, I saw an intriguing idea for making pumpkin muffins without flour, using almond butter and eggs. Admittedly, it didn’t immediately sound amazing because pumpkin and almond don’t always go hand in hand, in my mind. But finding excuses to test recipes for grain free food is a top priority these days, as (again) being just gluten free isn’t cutting it for me. Finding ways to be more grain free is challenging, and often I find myself eating cold leftovers for breakfast, straight out of the fridge, because oatmeal and gluten free banana muffins the Goobies and I usually reach for just don’t agree with me anymore. This is why choosing to use my time to make a batch of muffins was wise. It was either that, or eat cold hamburger soup for breakfast.

About two weeks ago I used my experience and good sense and decided to transform my go-to gluten free banana muffins into grain free version using almond flour, tapioca flour and coconut flour. The result was so delicious, we even think they’re better than the original. Armed with the confidence that comes from delicious successes such as that, I tried that magical combination of alternative flours in these pumpkin muffins too, and wouldn’t you know? It worked again. With their fluffy, crispy outside and tender crumb inside, you wouldn’t know there’s no grain in them. I’m not even kidding. They are not gummy or overly dry either. Perfectly moist and full of flavor.

So no, I didn’t drink my coffee in peace today. By the time I got around to pouring my cup of it, the Goobies were rushing in and out of the back yard, needing jackets and tissues and cups of water and snuggles from taking a tumble. I’m pretty sure half my cup is still sitting in the kitchen somewhere, cold and untouched. I think I’ll go find it. Maybe I’ll snag another muffin as I go, but I’ll make sure to leave plenty for you, too.

Love,

Scratch

Grain Free Pumpkin Muffins

muffins-2.jpg

Again, I took the lead from Laura over at Heavenly Homemakers, whose original recipe called for mainly eggs, almond butter and pumpkin (along with some brown sugar and pumpkin spice), but I cut the amount of almond butter in half and added in my magical combination of alternative flours, along with a few other ingredients to make sure the muffins rose properly, and voila–our own new go-to grain free (and dairy free, too!) pumpkin muffin recipe. Thanks for your inspiration, Laura!

Ingredients:
  • 1-15 oz. can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup creamy almond butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling
Method:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees farenheit. Line a standard muffin tin with muffin cups, or grease very well.

Next, combine all the ingredients together in a stand up mixer; beat until smooth and creamy. Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar, then pop the pan into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Allergy Friendly · Back to School · Family Life · Salads

Just One More Day, and BLT Pasta Salad

4Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.”

-Psalm 39:4-5

Dear Joey,

Just one more day.

That is what I told myself this morning when I climbed out of bed, not really ready to get up to face one more day of summer togetherness. I trudged my way through the dark of the morning, Emery at my heels: hungry and impatient. The thought of getting through one more day of all the Goobies home all day threatened to steal away the last shred of my sanity.  In the harried moments of the morning, it seemed like school couldn’t start fast enough. Just one more day until I can catch my breath.

IMG_8249

My parents have been here for a week and it’s been fantastic. They brought my grandparents to see our new home and to explore the area a little before heading off to Iowa to take care of some family business. They leave again today. The Goobies don’t want them to go. Neither do I, really. The Goobies seemed more at ease this past week than they have perhaps all summer long. More themselves, as if they had been holding their breath for weeks, not really sure they would ever see these familiar faces again. But they exhaled this week, finally able to relax a little and weren’t so on edge with each other. But today they had to say goodbye again and their tender little hearts were brave, but broken.

IMG_7088

They loaded up the car a few hours ago now after squeezing us tight and calling “See you later!” as they waved goodbye with the sort of cheerful smile that convinced me it might actually be true. We watched them drive away and the Goobies asked me they could please stay for just one more day.

IMG_1939

And those words brought me back to reality: their visit and summer vacation both end today. For me, this means the fridge won’t get magically stocked with Earth Balance and pork chops while I’m not looking; the kitchen sink will stay piled high with dirty dishes unless you or I (or both of us) roll up our sleeves and actually scrub them; and the laundry won’t fold itself while I’m making dinner in the other room. (Bless all the Grandparents.) Suddenly it is a school night and gracious me I have to think about packing lunches again. But for them, for the Goobies, this means there is just one more day until school starts and the elusive change we have been talking about for weeks is finally, unavoidably, here.

IMG_9560

My breath is catching in my throat as I think about the weight of those words: Just one more day is both a promise and a warning. Hang on, there’s only one more day to endure the aggravation of too much togetherness. And also, Make the most of this moment, because there’s just one more day until it all changes again. Just one more day until the rigors of school supersede laid back summer days, as cooped up and crazy as they became. Just one more day until packing lunches and completing homework and enforcing bedtime make the evenings fly by. Just one more day until fighting over outfits and untangling unkempt hair and forcing breakfast into a tummy that doesn’t want to eat, followed by the frenzied dash toward the door and a too-quick kiss goodbye as they topple out of the car. Just one more day to be slow, to lay low, to just be.  When tomorrow comes, I will breathe deeply and exhale slowly, thankful that we made it to the finish line. When today is gone, my heart will hurt and tears will fall, I will face the first day of school wishing for just one more day. I wonder how the Goobies will feel?

IMG_5009

I carried Mia up the stairs this afternoon; it was quiet reading time and she seemed a little off. She wrapped her arms around my neck and I memorized the way it felt to hold her like that.

“I’m going to miss you tomorrow,” I said.

“I’m going to miss you too.”

 

IMG_3167

Isn’t that always the way? We have complained our way through the summer, frustrated with all the togetherness that has made us so sick of each other, but suddenly I want to beg plead and bargain for just one more day with them all here at home with me. I want to finally slow down enough to plop on the floor with Addie and build Legos all afternoon. I want to sit in the shade of the garage and watch them ride bikes until they are red in the face. I want to listen to them squeal with shocked delight as they run through the sprinklers in the heat of the day, and let them lick Popsicles at lunchtime because it’s just too hot to eat. I want to snuggle up with Mia while Emery sleeps in the haze of a lazy afternoon and listen to her read Matilda to me as I fight to stay awake. I want to go swimming at twilight and and pile scoop upon scoop of homemade ice cream high up on a sugar cone, lapping up the frozen treat in the thick evening air right along with them.

IMG_7499

Why is it so hard for me to say yes? Why do I say no, or not right now, or maybe later when experience teaches me that later is the place where regret resides? Today is a good day to look back on all the times I said yes, the times I jumped into the water and played in the pool along with them, the afternoons we pulled out the Whirley Pop and made kettle corn and piled onto the couch and snuggled as we watched The Sword in the Stone or Robin Hood; the mornings when I put on my prom dress and played Royal Family with them, pretending to be a queen dripping in gaudy jewelry, only to have them wrap a cape around my neck and declare me a royal superhero. But instead of seeing all the times I said yes, all I seem to see are the times I said no, not now, and maybe later. Later is here now, and time ran out, and I wish I could go back and do it better.

IMG_8239

Rain is falling now. Gray clouds stretch farther than my eyes can see, a soft blanket nestling us in the house together for one last afternoon before we throw off the covers and crawl out of bed to face a new school year and all the hassle and joy and change it brings. Tears sting my eyes, and I can’t help it. I can’t go back, I can’t do it all over again, but I can re-frame my thinking. I can remember how painful it is to regret saying no, not now, or maybe later. I can choose to be motivated by the promise and warning of what it feels like to have just one more day, every day.

IMG_8724

Addie and Mia have miraculously built Lego’s together all afternoon without snarling at each other over petty little problems. I hardly hear them; but what I hear, I cherish. Their sweet voices cooperative and kind, the soundtrack to my afternoon that romanticizes the idea of having them here with me forever. Tomorrow, the house will be quiet at nap time, and tears fall as I think about it. I will miss them, but I am excited for them too: out there making friends and taking chances and learning, again, what it means to be brave. And while they are there, I will be here, waiting to hear their stories when they pile into the car when the day is done, refreshed and ready to really listen because there are only so many more days left like that out there in the hazy future, and I don’t want to miss even one of them.

Love,

Scratch

BLT Pasta Salad

IMG_4400.JPG

This salad screams summer to me: a refreshing salad that requires minimal effort. It was born out of the need to ditch my plans for Friday night pizza and throw something together with minimal effort (because spending a summer morning at the farm in the middle of a Midwestern August day does not make me want to come home and work in a hot kitchen). Not too proud to admit to poor planning, I switched gears and declared we would grill Bratwurst and throw together a few cold salads instead and toast to an easy summer dinner. I didn’t come up with the idea for BLT Pasta Salad, but I followed my own intuition when making it for my food allergy family.  The beauty of it is it is flexible (like so many of my recipes!), and can easily be adapted to suit your family’s needs. My family liked it so much they urged me to post it here on Love, Scratch, so that other families could enjoy it too. Cheers to laid back summer dinners!

Ingredients:
  • 1-12 oz box Gluten Free Bow Tie Pasta (such as Jovial brand)
  • 1 heart of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • real bacon bits* (such as Epic brand, which is dairy free. Watch out for lactic acid starter culture in bacon!)
  • 3/4 cup homemade dairy free ranch dressing (or store bought)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons barbecue sauce (homemade or storebought, more or less to your liking)

* You’ll notice I do not give an exact quantity for bacon bits. This is because you know how much your family likes bacon, and you probably have a grasp on how much they would prefer. I used a 3 oz. package of Epic brand bacon bits for this particular batch, but the salad would have benefited from more. Admittedly, I would have preferred to use a freshly cooked batch of thick cut bacon, crumbled into bits, but I took the easy way out and saved myself the trouble of dealing with hot bacon grease. I humbly suggest you do the same if you make this on a hot summer afternoon.

Method:

First, cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water. (I know most cooks frown upon rinsing pasta, but I rinse mine when I make pasta salad. I like the way it helps the noodles cool down and keeps them from sticking together.) Dump the noodles into a large mixing bowl and let them cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes or so.

While the noodles are cooking, get the bacon ready. If you are cooking a fresh batch of bacon, go ahead and do it now. Then wash and chop the lettuce and tomatoes, and set them aside. If you are . Mix together the ranch and barbecue sauce and set that aside too.

When the noodles have cooled off, toss in the tomatoes and bacon bits, and drizzle about half of the dressing on top. Toss it together, making sure the noodles are completely coated with the sauce. Refrigerate until ready to serve, so that the noodles soak up all the flavor of the sauces. When it’s just about time to serve, toss in the lettuce and pour the remaining sauce on top and toss to coat again.

Spoon the filling into the taco shells–about 1/3 cup each, then top with the cheese. Pop the pan into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the shells are golden and the cheese is melted and golden. (Yes! Even vegan cheese melts and turns golden!)

Serve immediately–or as soon as you can. The filling will be hot, but the shells have a tendency to turn soggy if they sit too long. This never stops any of us from polishing off a taco or two (or five, if we’re talking about Joey).

 

 

Allergy Friendly · Family Life · What's for Dinner?

Better, Not Easier, and Crispy Baked Tacos

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other;

let us show the truth by our actions.”

-1 John 3:18

Dear Joey,

The Goobies have been bugging me.

IMG_3712

I know why: the four of us have been together constantly from the moment we left California–that’s a month and a half without much of a break. Moving to a new state compounded the normal stresses of summer, and here we are two weeks away from school starting and the day can’t get here fast enough because (confession): I’m a wreck.

So much togetherness became too much togetherness for my introverted self. Most days I want to hide away in the deepest corner of our closet, lock the door and never come out again, but dang it, I love those kids, so I greet each morning with a half-hearted smile, willing myself to give choosing what is better over what is easy my very best shot.

IMG_7557

Last summer the days crept by, but this summer flew. It’s not exactly a good thing either, because even though I can’t wait for school to start, I am also dreading the fast and frenzied mornings that will quickly turn into late nights spent toting kids to and from soccer practice and helping them get their homework done, all while squeezing in dinner and keeping Emery busy and stimulated, and us connected to each other.

“It gets late quicker in Kansas, doesn’t it?” you asked me last week, when it was suddenly 9:30 pm and I was still folding laundry.  I think we said said hello to each other when you got home from work that day, but that quick exchange of words and kisses may have been the only moment completely ours. Most conversations get hijacked by one Goobie or another, because they are just as cooped up as I am and they miss you all day too.

IMG_7427

Two nights ago we tried really hard to slow down and recharge, so we tucked the Goobies into bed by 8:30, making sure the girls had books to read and water to sip, then tip toed out to the patio to sit side by side and actually talk to each other. It didn’t last long.

They came out to join us one by one: first Addie, having finished The Princess in Black quicker than we thought she would and not quite ready to succumb to sleep yet. We smiled politely and listened, and when we realized she just wanted to start the next book in the series before turning out her light, I took  her by the hand and went upstairs with her, handed her the book, and whispered another goodnight before closing the door again.

IMG_4903

Not long after that, out came Mia, who flashed us the smile that sets souls on fire and curled up in the rocking chair across from you, poised and ready to participate in grown up conversation. We indulged her for a few minutes (recognizing we don’t often get one-on-one time with her either) before giving her another round of hugs and kisses and walking her back to bed.

The quiet of the night returned, fireflies and lightning flashing bright in the star-studded sky. We talked about blue Wisteria trees and the allegorical quality of Frodo Baggins; the powerful testimony of the apostle Paul and the beauty and gravity of being made human, marveling at the idea that God sees something good in any of us. And then Addie opened the patio door a second time, eyes weary of reading but not heavy enough to close.

IMG_4341

We feigned happy faces, frustrated as we were to be interrupted again. And yet, I opened my arms wide and she came running to me, latched onto me and held tight while you ducked into the kitchen for that box of Pfeffernusse cookies hiding at the top of the pantry. You broke open the box and silently handed one to Addie, who took the cookie with wide eyed wonder, thinking it must be too good to be true. She hesitated to taste it for only a moment until she saw the look on your face, the look that told her it was hers to enjoy. She eased her grip on me and snuggled close to you, listening to you talk about your grandma Adeline–our Addie’s namesake– and the way those spicy German cookies connect you to her memory. I think you hoped they would connect Addie to her memory, too.

We sat like that for a half an hour at least–or maybe more–who knows. Time slowed and we didn’t care what time it was. It was sort of a miracle. Addie’s head rested on your chest as she laid there watching the stars, needing nothing else in the world but you.

IMG_7957

Sometimes we get focused on what we need and end up unwittingly dismissing the cues our kids send us about what they need. It’s not on purpose, and usually the things we need to keep us connected aren’t bad things on their own. We hadn’t sat down to speak to each other without one of the Goobies hanging around, interjecting their childish opinions and derailing our conversations, for weeks. And yet–clearly we haven’t made time to give the girls what they need either. How often do any of them get us, together, alone?

We don’t always choose what is better instead of what is easier–in this case, setting aside our own agenda for the sake of showing love to the kids–but that night, we did. Yes, we still need to make the time to talk to each other beyond a quick hello, but our small sacrifice of focusing on what Addie needed right then, in that moment, felt right. She didn’t need lectures about obedience or staying in bed or how our bodies will eventually fall asleep even though it’s hard–she needed us to let her hang out with us. For as much as we tell her we love her, she needed us to show her our love by not saying anything at all.  Spreading our arms wide and pulling her close; sharing cookies and watching a storm roll in; walking her back up to bed as the rain started to fall and singing one last lullaby before saying goodnight–the girl woke up happier than she has in weeks.

I woke up in better spirits too, I think. The Goobies didn’t seem so annoying yesterday, and somehow we managed to squeeze more good out of a single day than we had in quite some time, as if that small act of kindness empowered me to keep on giving them the love and attention they need.

Love,

Scratch

Crispy Baked Tacos

IMG_7570

A couple of weeks ago, after a particularly difficult day of wrangling kids (who were just as sick of each other as they were of me), Joey swooped in and rescued my sanity by taking the Goobies to the pool for an hour before dinner. This was a win-win because not only did I get a little bit of much-needed time by myself, but the kids came home to a real dinner (and not just ham & cracker sandwiches, which would have been the dinnertime solution had Joey not come home right when he did.) After an hour’s worth of playing hard in the pool, Addie walked into the kitchen and smiled wide, sighing as the aroma of her beloved Crispy Baked Tacos greeted her. (It’s one of her absolute favorites.) Sticking with the ham & crackers and putting my feet up while they were gone would have been easier, but this dinner was definitely better in so many ways. A simple green salad and sliced cantaloupe makes the meal complete.

Ingredients:
  • 1-15 pack Stand ‘N Stuff taco shells (or regular ones, but the stand & stuff are more cooperative)
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey (I use 85/15, but you can use a leaner version if you prefer)
  • 1-16 ounce can refried beans
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 Tablespoons / 1 ounce homemade taco seasoning (or 1 packet store bought)
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • salt, to taste (it won’t need munch–just a pinch or two)
  • 1/2 cup Follow Your Heart brand Vegan Cheddar Style Shreds*
  • 1/2 cup Follow Your Heart brand Vegan Parmesan Style shreds*

*Or use the equivalent of at least 1 cup of your family’s favorite vegan or dairy cheese (but in our opinion, Follow Your Heart brand wins). And I won’t hold it against you if you use more than a cup of cheese–before we were dairy free, we piled lots of cheddar on top, but now we use the vegan varieties more sparingly.

Method:

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Next, spray a 13 x 9 glass baking dish with cooking spray and line up the taco shells all in a row. You will probably need an extra 8 x 8 glass pan too, so go ahead and get that one ready as well.

Move on to the filling: brown the meat over medium high heat. Once browned, but not crispy, sprinkle the taco seasoning on top and toss to coat. Then add the vinegar and a couple pinches of salt and stir well to combine (these two together will wake up the flavors, so don’t skip it!). Next, add the tomatoes and beans, stir to combine well, and cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat. Let the filling sit for about 5 minutes to firm up just a bit (if you try to fill the tacos too soon, the filling will still be runny).

Spoon the filling into the taco shells–about 1/3 cup each, then top with the cheese. Pop the pan into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the shells are golden and the cheese is melted and golden. (Yes! Even vegan cheese melts and turns golden!)

Serve immediately–or as soon as you can. The filling will be hot, but the shells have a tendency to turn soggy if they sit too long. This never stops any of us from polishing off a taco or two (or five, if we’re talking about Joey).

 

Dairy Free · Gluten Free · Pizza · What's for Dinner?

The Return of Pizza, and Easy Olive Oil Biscuit Crust

If I eat what is served to me, grateful to God for what is on the table, how can I worry about what someone will say? I thanked God for it and he blessed it!

1 Corinthians 10:30 (MSG)

Dear Joey,

Ah, pizza.

When Emery was first diagnosed with his dairy allergy, we let the girls eat the cheese-laden stuff around him all the time. He was an infant, after all, small and snuggly and on a liquid diet. But once the kid showed interest in what we were eating–and then when he started walking and reaching and climbing, we panicked. (The sippy cup incident taught us our lesson). Clearly, we ditched the dairy.

IMG_7440

But, pizza.

We missed the weekly appearance of those slices dripping with cheesy goodness. The Friday night staple sent a signal, telling us something fun was about to happen, and helped us switch gears from get it done to let it rest. Missing the stuff so terribly, we switched to frozen pizzas–the Daiya brand, specifically (because it’s gluten free, too), because it seemed to be the variety most dairy free folks like best. Emery cheered when we set a slice in front of him, so happy was he to be eating the same food as his sisters, but Mia scoffed, saying it smelled funny. Addie wasn’t so hard to please–she liked it ok-ish, she said, but admitted it didn’t taste like our homemade variety to which she was accustomed. She understood why we made the switch, she said, but Mia seemed nonplussed by it all. Somehow we managed to get her to try a tiny bite, after which she insisted, “I don’t like it. It’s TERRIBLE!” and proceeded to cry.

IMG_7627

Since this could not be pizza.

So the vegan pies disappeared from our table for awhile (even though, admittedly, we still indulged in a slice of gluten free pizza once in awhile after the Goobies were tucked snug in their beds.) We figured keeping real pizza away from the dinner table might retrain the girls’ taste buds, and met their requests for slices of it with, “not for awhile, kiddos.” Serving slices of regular cheesy pizza to the girls alongside Emery’s vegan variety seemed like an unfairness we couldn’t get on board with. It didn’t go over well with Mia, so we appealed to her deep-set sense of justice and asked her how it would feel if we all ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch while she sat next to us eating a ham sandwich instead. “Not good,” she grumbled.

IMG_7628

So, no pizza.

Time went by and little by little the girls’ taste buds adjusted (or just simply forgot how glorious the real stuff tastes) and eventually we played around with other vegan cheeses that ended up producing food that duped even our toughest critic. So, when things turned chaotic again just a few months ago and I found myself wandering the aisles at Sprouts trying to find frozen convenience foods that were 1) foods safe for everyone in our family to eat and 2) foods that everyone in our family would willingly eat,  I wondered: might it be time to give Daiya frozen pizzas another shot? I grabbed a couple of boxes and tossed them into my cart, asking God to grant favor over this small little thing that really doesn’t matter much in the scheme of things, but would be a huge help to my stressed out self. “Please God, help them eat it without grumbling about it?”

IMG_7629

Because, pizza.

Friday night rolled around and I popped those things in the oven and didn’t give anyone a chance to protest. Out they came, and I sliced them up and stacked them on plates and handed the Goobies their dinner with a feigned look of confidence. After prayers, they ate, and I heard nothing but the warbled sound of voices filling each other in on the day’s events in between mouthfuls of pizza. I silently cheered as I went about my business, only to be shaken out of my silent celebration by Mia’s persnickity voice saying, “Ahem–uh, Mom–is this Daiya?”  I was caught.

IMG_7660

Daiya? Pizza?

Clearly, I couldn’t pass the stuff off as anything but what it actually was, so I claimed defeat and simply said, “Yep.”

“I like it.”

Silence, as all three Goobies continued to scarf the stuff down as if they hadn’t had pizza in months. (Which, of course, they hadn’t.) My simple prayer at that point? “Thank you thank you thank you thank you.”

IMG_7665

Finally, pizza.

And so, since that day I made it a habit to toss a pizza or two into my shopping cart so our freezer is always stocked with them. In theory, this is a great plan: frozen pizza laying in wait is a convenience almost as good as the freedom to call out for delivery. But goodness those pizzas aren’t friendly to my wallet. So once the debris of moving began to clear around here, I got back into the habit of making fresh dough, slathering on some sauce and sprinkling on some Daiya at home, trusting that the Goobies would be excited about them as they were about the frozen variety that Mia now claims she loves. (Praise God.) There may not be any in the freezer at the moment, but don’t worry not: I’ll keep the simple staples stocked so we can have pizza on a whim just about anytime–even at the last minute. Feel free to ask for it as often as you wish. I expect the Goobies will too.

IMG_7669

After all, pizza.

Love,

Scratch

Olive Oil Biscuit Crust Pizza

IMG_7666

My mom mentioned biscuit crust pizzas to me this past year when a yeast dough pizza crust mishap foiled our Friday night dinner plans. It was during the time when I was trying to pass off pizzas made with Daiya to Mia with no success. I spent hours trying on making these pizzas and they wound up in a miserable heap that Mia refused to eat. Biscuit crusts were my mom’s secret weapon during my growing up years–a quick, fuss-free way to make inexpensive pizzas us kids loved. Sheet pans layered with dough and cheese and hamburger happened all the time in our house, and while I hadn’t remembered the biscuit crust specifically until she mentioned them, I do remember those big ol’ pans of cheesy goodness with the sort of clarity only a chubby kid can claim. My mom used Bisquick as a short cut to quickly produce pizza at the last minute: stir together a few ingredients, press the dough onto a pan, pile it high with toppings and pop it into the oven. What follows is my rendition of her biscuit crust, modified to be gluten and dairy free, and as written is free of the top 8 allergens. The combination of vegan cheeses listed below are what we prefer and produce a pizza that really does taste like the frozen ones that inspired it, but if you like the Daiya cheddar shreds, us that instead of the Follow Your Heart brand. As always, if your family doesn’t have food allergies, swap out conventional ingredients for the modified ones below (all purpose flour for gluten free flour; milk for flax milk; mozzarella and cheddar for vegan substitutes). Add other toppings as you like, of course. 

Ingredients:

For the crust–

  • 3 cups all purpose gluten free flour blend
  • 1 1/2 cups plain unsweetened flax milk
  • 9 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar

For the pizza sauce–

  • 1-15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated garlic

For the toppings–

Method:

First, preheat the oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. Next, grease a jelly roll pan (use coconut oil cooking spray because it’s easy). Then, in a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the sauce and set it aside, keeping it close because you’ll need it soon. Toss together the two vegan cheeses in another small bowl and keep that one close by too.

Move on to the dough: whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the oil and mix well until the flour and oil have combined completely and looks a little bit like really wet sand. Pour in the flaxmilk and stir until a soft dough forms, and let it sit to absorb the liquid for about a minute. Next, dump the dough onto the greased jelly roll pan and press it out evenly until it covers the pan completely and goes about 1/2 inch up the side of the pan, like you would with a pie crust. Slip the crust into the oven and par-bake it for about 5-7 minutes.

After that, take it out and spread the sauce evenly across the top of the crust, as thick or thin as you prefer. Sprinkle the vegan cheese blend all over, and add any other toppings you want to add as well. Slip the pizza back into the oven for 15-18 more minutes, or until the vegan cheese shreds have melted and started to turn golden.

Slice. Serve. Smile.